Recently I’ve been thinking about the psychology of double dipping when it comes to the world of travel — including reselling, manufactured spend, miles/points and credit cards. I have no doubt that companies have studied this and purposefully use and exploit it to get us to spend more money.
One prime example: credit card annual fees.
Now, these cards come with great benefits that offset the annual fee. Access to various airport lounges, big sign up bonuses, Global Entry application fee reimbursement, access to hotel benefits, and airline credits.
The airline credit in particular seems to often play in to my own psychology of double dipping. Amex offers reimbursement of $200 each calendar year for airline fees that you charge to your card. First you must pick one airline for the perk (I picked Alaska). Then, you use your Amex Platinum card to pay any airline fees over the course of the year (up to $200). These fees can include ticket change fees, baggage fees or even in-flight food and beverage. Then, automatically Amex will reimburse the charge on your credit card statement.
Note: There are also some known work arounds so that you can buy gift certificates for an airline, get reimbursed, and then use the certificate for a future flight. There is a possibility I do this.
So where does the psychology of double dipping come in?
Just today I was booking a flight on Alaska using a gift certificate I had purchased (and been reimbursed for) through my Amex Platinum card. The flight came to $170. Great! A free flight for me! I can totally justify this completely non-essential trip to Las Vegas.
True, I used the Amex benefit so that I didn’t have to pay for the ticket out of pocket.
However, the double dipping comes in when I think about paying the annual fee. Sure, it’s $450 a year. But I get a $200 airline credit, so really I am only paying $250 a year.
In my mind I have just doubled up on justifying the costs. $170 free ticket to Vegas. $200 off the cost of the annual fee.
I do these mental gymnastics in other areas of travel costs as well. Sure, I paid $1500 for a business trip flight to Buenos Aires, but I got 28,000 Alaska Miles. That’s worth at least $300 towards future travel. So really the ticket was only $1200!
But then when I book my award ticket, I tell myself What a great deal! I get to fly in First Class around the world for free! Oops. Double dipping.
Travel is a luxury. I like to find ways to make it cheaper. Still; I find my brain trying to justify the cost. Maybe this is an okay thing. Nothing wrong with a little denial about how expensive traveling can be.